Together, apart - Mumbaikars voice their opinion

Together, apart - Mumbaikars voice their opinion

Students, principals, and parents voice their strong opinions over the virtual storm of co-education schools or single-sex schools.

Alok ParekhUpdated: Saturday, August 13, 2022, 02:06 PM IST
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Together, apart - Mumbaikars voice their opinion | Representational Image

Girls and boys studying together? This topic has stirred up a virtual storm in the education realm.

“It is not at all enough to say that boys and girls are equal but an atmosphere which help them experience the gender neutrality should prevail in schools. Uniforms have been made gender neutral… I do not understand why the schools are not changed on that pattern,” said a member of child rights panel, Reni Antony, to the media, over an acrimonious debate in Kerala over conversion of single-sex schools to co-education schools.

The debate began after the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights ordered the government to convert all single-sex schools to co-educational schools the next academic year (2023-24) onwards. For the past few years, several single-sex schools have changed to a co-ed system in the southern state however, there still exist 280 all-girls schools and 164 all-boys schools.

Despite a literacy rate of over 90%, the order has erupted mixed reactions among teachers, students, principals, and parents throughout the state. There have been clashes within the public; people with an orthodox mind-set being against the order due to ‘safety concerns’ and ‘disciplinary issues’ while the more modern minds have favoured the order.

What if something like this happened in Mumbai? Free Press Journal spoke to several students, principals, and parents from different parts of the city to know their reactions.

Students’ views:

“I experienced mixed feelings about going to an all-girls school. I comfortably had girly conversations, but I also witnessed that bullying was a thing in my school. When I shifted to a co-ed college suddenly, the environment was completely different. I didn’t know how to behave, and every small spec of attention would end up as an attraction towards boys. Had I been in a co-ed school since the beginning, the comfort zone would have been better,” said Dhwani Shah, a former student of St. Anthony’s Girls High School.

Tarun Jain, who studied in OLPS School, said, “Being in an all-boys school, I’d appreciate the kind of bond and loyalty I share with my friends even today. But the unappreciated part was the type of language we used, the slangs. As I got exposed to the opposite gender, I started feeling that I would be judged and started dressing accordingly. There had been this constant tension of using appropriate language. For the first few months, I just was friends with boys.”

Another student from a co-ed school expressed, “I’m glad I was in a co-ed school since the beginning. I developed better thinking since the start and I knew how to behave appropriately with every gender that I came across. However, the management’s slightly orthodox mentality like it being compulsory for girls to not wear sleeveless tops or wear skirts only if they are longer than the knee length so that boys ‘weren’t distracted’ was bit of an issue at my school sometimes.”

Principals’ statements:

Father Dr. Francis Swamy, Principal Campion School, shared his views over the two types of schools. He said, “In my opinion, having co-ed schools is always a better option. It allows students to interact in different ways, knowing their limits and also exploring new things. However, in my all-boys school, I wouldn’t say that boys were never exposed to girls. Whenever they have gone out for any inter-school competition, they have met girls and interacted with them without feeling any peer pressure.”

Father Dr. Francis Swamy, Principal Campion School, shared his views over the two types of schools. He said, “In my opinion, having co-ed schools is always a better option. It allows students to interact in different ways, knowing their limits and also exploring new things. However, in my all-boys school, I wouldn’t say that boys were never exposed to girls. Whenever they have gone out for any inter-school competition, they have met girls and interacted with them without feeling any peer pressure.”

Parents’ opinions:

Mrs. Ketki Shah, parent of St. Anthony’s Dhwani, said, “I regret the decision of having to put my child in an all-girls school. She was initially in a co-ed school, but the school was in a slum locality. It made us fear after several incidents took place where children were kidnapped. Since I come from a convent school, I thought that would be a good option for Dhwani too. However, I would never recommend anyone to put their child into a single-sex school.”

Similar views of regret were expressed by another parent, who wishes her identity kept anonymous. She said, “I wanted my son to go to a co-ed school since the beginning. But the school we wished him to get admission in, asked for donation. We weren’t okay with that. There was no other well-known co-ed school near to where we lived. Hence, the last option was to put him into a well-known, all-boys school. But I would always suggest parents to put their child into a co-ed school for better mental growth.”

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